Me Oh My Oh, Just Like The Bayou – Is Belize’s Cuisine The Cajun Cooking of Latin America?
The Uk’s Telegraph seems to think so...
First, full disclosure – we happen to think the Great State of Louisiana has more culture in its little finger than many other places combined.
The music scene – from Delta Blues to pumping Zydeco to the richly textured jazz of New Orleans - is beyond compare. We’re talking about a town where people line the streets to dance and jive when an orchestrated funeral passes, and every second door seems to open into a club or music venue, where the very language is richly poetic, and the Mardi Gras has been copied the world over, but never equalled.
And then there’s the food... from Beignets for breakfast to shrimp po’boys for lunch to Jambalaya, Gumbos and Etouffee for dinner, there’s nothing like Cajun.
So when one of the world’s most well known newspapers, England’s Daily Telegraph, put Belizean food in the same class as Cajun cuisine, our appetites for another helping of news was as sharp as a French Quarter waiter’s attire.
In an article titled The English-speaking country with ancient ruins, spectacular wildlife – but hardly any tourists, we found this tasty morsel:
“Belizean food stands out in Latin American as much as Cajun food does in the United States. It’s spicy, usually stewed, heavy on seafood, usually comes with beans and rice, and is often topped with Marie Sharp’s famous hot sauce.... As a bonus that can only lead you to better food, there are no McDonald’s, Burger Kings, Starbucks, or KFC’s in the entire country.
Check out our Top 9 Belizean Eats blog:
Of course! It had been staring us in the face for years!
Belizean cuisine is to Central and South America what Cajun is to North American dining – totally unique, totally awesome, and in a class of its own.
When you think about it, it makes sense. Belize and Louisiana are both multicultural melting pots with incredibly colourful histories, such as being ports of call for pirates, rumrunners and other interesting characters.
So, no wonder there are similarities. Cajun draws on a mixture of French styles with indigenous ingredients, while Belize’s cuisine incorporates Spanish influences with indigenous Maya. And both are influenced by Africa and the various spices sailors brought from around the world.
And both are uniquely, some may say insanely, delicious.
Just as a few years back Cajun food was all the rage, Belizean cuisine is finally getting the respect it deserves as more and more visitors return home with glowing reports about dining in Belize. And, more to the point, dining at Chaa Creek.
Situated in the Heartland of the Maya in the multicultural Cayo District of Western Belize, Chaa Creek began life in the 1970s as a farm whose young owners shared an interest in the local environment and culture. Before long, Mick and Lucy Fleming were offering farm-to-table dining before they even heard the term, and with cooks and staff hailing from Maya, Creole, Mestizo, Garifuna, East Indian, North American and other backgrounds, what is now known as Nouvelle Belizean and Belizean Fusion took off.
As Chaa Creek grew with the Fleming siblings Bryony and Piers, the family opened another eatery in nearby San Ignacio Town – the award-winning Guava Limb Café. And more recently Bryony, now as managing director, hit upon an idea that has become one of Chaa Creek’s most popular onsite attractions – The Open Hearth.
Just like Belizean cuisine, there’s nothing quite like the Open Hearth. Inside a traditional, representational thatched roof Belizean bush kitchen, guests receive a crash course in the individual cultures that make up Belize’s multicultural melting pot while learning to cook authentic ethnic meals under the care of local cooks.
During Mestizo Mondays, East-Indian Tuesdays, Creole Wednesdays, Garifuna Thursdays and Maya Friday, Chaa Creek guests have the rare opportunity to learn the various ethnic styles that make Belizean cuisine such a richly rewarding culinary experience. One can even visit the traditional Maya Organic Farm to learn how farming practices thousand of years old now supply the onsite Mariposa Restaurant and San Ignacio’s Guava Limb Restaurant & Café.
So – in addition to priceless experiences, photographs and memories, Chaa Creek’s guests can now return home with new cooking skills and recipes guaranteed to enhance their culinary repertoire and take their dinner parties to a whole new level.
In kitchens across Louisiana, cooks sing that Hank Williams classic while creating magic:
“Goodbye Joe, me gotta go, me o my oh
Me gotta go pole the pirogue down the Bayou
Jambalaya and a Crawfish pie, and filé gumbo,
Son of a gun, we’ll have fun, down on the Bayou”
Now, with Belizean cuisine taking off, we may soon be hearing:
“Adios Jose, me gonna go, me oh my oh
Me gotta paddle me canoe down the Macal –oh
Rice and beans, tamales, garnaches and a boyo
Now I’m pining, to go back to Belize
For more dining”